What are False Friends in Language Translation?
If you have studied a foreign language with similarities to English, your teacher surely told you to beware of false friends. Here’s why.
"False friends" are pairs of words in two languages that appear to be similar, but differ in meaning. For example, in French "attendre" means "to wait" – quite different from the English sense of "to attend an event." Confusion could obviously ensue from that particular word combination! False friends are treacherous for language learners because they are so tempting to use, but can lead to problematic misunderstanding.
Many Spanish words look or sound similar to English words, but some are of course false friends, or falsos amigos. Gerald Erichsen of About.com has compiled a list of the most frequent confusing pairs, and it makes for interesting reading whether you speak Spanish or not. For instance, en absoluto means "not at all" or "absolutely not" – exactly the opposite of what you would expect it to mean.
Even reasonably fluent language speakers can be confused by false friends, and poorly translated documents and websites abound in them. That's why it's essential to use highly qualified translators from a professional translation company for your important business, medical and legal translation needs.
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